Mantis lessons

>>>Mantis lessons

A small chitinous lady landed on my little balcony this morning, a 4-inch long preying mantis, wearily looking for somewhere to lay her eggs.

I love mantids, love their ferocity, their intelligence, the way they eye you, daring you to just TRY something so they can trounce you.* A mantis moves through life supremely confident, supremely paranoid, without a shred of compassion.

Sometimes I want to be like that.

I named this one Maisie, and watched as she meticulously examined each leaf on the balcony floor. She’d approach, pick up one end in her grasping limbs, and turn it over, head cocked to the side, eyes scanning carefully for flaws.

Not one leaf suited, even when she re-examined a couple of the more promising specimens. She ran out of leaves and the sun came out, so for a moment she basked quietly in the warmth, watching me with swiveling eyes. Then she swung her swollen belly around and resumed her search.

Mantids don’t live long, eight months to a year on average and, watching her, it was pretty clear that Maisie was nearing the end of her span. She was heavy with eggs and dragging her abdomen on the ground, tattering a bit more with every step.

Yet she never stopped her search, pushing wearily along the textured floor of the balcony. When she did find what she sought, she’d cover it with a foamy mass of eggs. Her eggs would harden while Maisie died; she’d never witness spring’s emergence of the babies she’d so meticulously situated.

She focused on the task at hand, ignoring the pain and weariness in favor of the greater goal.

Sometimes I want to be like that.

Last night was painful; The Leg went past grumpy to electroshock-nasty, par for the course given the stretching I must continue to regain a bendable knee. It pushed sleep away and kept me awake all night, blearily seeking a respite from the ache. My back counted every spring in the mattress, hour by hour to dawn.

It’s easy to vow to push through the pain and exhaustion in the light of day, before you start your recovery. So much harder to remember that vow in the dark, to push on when you’re mid-journey, exhausted and sore, and the only way out is through.

I watched Maisie pushing leaves aside, scraping her way across the balcony, and sat up a bit straighter.

I’ve got a plane to walk off next month. Back to work.

* Famous family story: I had a thing for creepy crawlies as a child, i.e., my pets were just as likely to be snakes and toads and preying manti as fluffy kittens. Mom wasn’t a huge fan of my choices, but once, during a grandparent pilgrimage in North Carolina, she happened on a ginormous preying mantis outside a country grocery.

She knew immediately that I’d love it for a pet, but no way was she picking it up herself. So she fetched a box, poked some holes into it, and asked a kind local if he’d stuff the mantis inside. 

Mom bore a striking resemblance to Jackie Kennedy Onassis; the guy was happy to oblige. “Are you sure they don’t bite?” he asked jestingly. 

“Oh no,” she assured him, “My daughter handles them all the time.”

Famous last words. Guy grabs the mantis, mantis whips around, embedding its claws into his thumb. Guy screams, mantis digs in, and a short, bloody skirmish ended with a mangled thumb and a triumphant mantis flying into the night. 

Lesson learned: Don’t mess with BIG mantids. Good thing I didn’t keep cobras.


The Saving Elmo series covers my adventures after crashing to the ground on Elmo, my replacement knee, sustaining an “open, comminuted fracture of the left femoral shaft.” It’s a tad more dire than it sounds; if my bone doesn’t grow completely back and return me to normal function, there’s a new, more painful, less effective femoral replacement in my future…with eventual amputation.

If you want to follow along on the journey, try these posts:

Mantis lessons

November 14th, 2017|10 Comments

Mischief managed

November 8th, 2017|19 Comments

Surgery musings and kudos to Marriott

October 15th, 2017|22 Comments

I think I’m in love…with my bathroom

October 10th, 2017|8 Comments

Chirurgia interruptus

September 28th, 2017|11 Comments

Happy Crashiversary, Elmo

September 18th, 2017|19 Comments

So how did you break your leg?

August 10th, 2017|2 Comments

View from the mountain

August 4th, 2017|4 Comments

The ravell’d sleeve of care…

July 26th, 2017|6 Comments

Test: Can you spot the cripple?

July 22nd, 2017|14 Comments

Zeroing in and leveling out

July 20th, 2017|34 Comments

Femurs, accessibility, and Utah: Saving Elmo II

July 16th, 2017|14 Comments

Tripping the light surgical: Saving Elmo II

July 14th, 2017|12 Comments

Wheelchair traveler…

July 12th, 2017|7 Comments

Filling up on sweetness, with fragility

July 6th, 2017|8 Comments

Saving Elmo: Sometimes the bear eats you

June 26th, 2017|17 Comments

No place like it…

June 12th, 2017|6 Comments

Driving Miz Cynthia, Part Two

June 5th, 2017|9 Comments

Drivin’ Miz Cynthia

June 1st, 2017|5 Comments

Home-ward bound

May 29th, 2017|10 Comments

Room 15: Paying it forward

April 3rd, 2017|12 Comments


April 1st, 2017|5 Comments

The Fortress

March 25th, 2017|9 Comments

On the bone again…

March 10th, 2017|14 Comments

Moonlight at sunrise, with jitters

March 8th, 2017|8 Comments

The wheeled view

March 2nd, 2017|10 Comments

Elmo, Beorn, and the Ferengi’s ears

January 30th, 2017|12 Comments

Cliffhangers, clues, and claying around

November 28th, 2016|7 Comments

8 weeks: Patience for the unvirtuous

November 16th, 2016|12 Comments

Death by chicken

October 20th, 2016|5 Comments

Mr. Desmond

October 13th, 2016|7 Comments

Saving Elmo 4: The Meltdown

October 9th, 2016|13 Comments

Bedpans and reachsticks

October 2nd, 2016|4 Comments

Saving Elmo 2: The Plan

September 29th, 2016|11 Comments

Saving Elmo 1: I fight concrete…and lose

September 27th, 2016|26 Comments



  1. SB November 15, 2017 at 8:03 am - Reply

    Hoping that the worst is over for you. Thanks for sharing your story with us, and best wishes for less pain and more mobility every day.

  2. kathryncecelia November 15, 2017 at 1:45 am - Reply

    I send best wishes your way for a recovery that take you happily into the future… but the present is another wish. For the present I hope your pain lessens.

  3. Buttercup November 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    All the very best, Cynthia. I’m sure it’s yet to come. I’m glad the surgeries are behind you and, like so many others, I look forward to your progress reports and very witty writing. Jen

  4. ellen abbott November 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    cute story about your mom and the mantis. why do things always seem so bleak at night? like you say, the only way out is through so carry on.

  5. Sandy November 14, 2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I enjoyed your mantis stories! LOL! Don’t female mantis’s eat their mates after mating?

    • cynthia November 14, 2017 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Yep. Well, apparently DURING mating. These are not ladies to trifle with!

  6. Diana tillotson November 14, 2017 at 8:52 am - Reply

    You are an inspiration of wit and strength . I think of you often , wish I could meet you, keep on keeping on.
    If you would send your home address I would love to send you something I’ve made . You can message me privately on Facebook. You really should take up a career in writing. Hoping for an uneventful rehab.

  7. thenolanescape November 14, 2017 at 8:10 am - Reply

    I would like to say that I am enjoying your writing but that seems pretty awful. However, I will say that I admire your courage, wit, stamina, and drive. I look forward to your posts in hopes that each one brings you great progress or even a little progress. It is a little beacon of hope and optimism. I am sure not all days are like that for you. Even then, it is good to hear from you. Soldier On!

  8. Brenda November 14, 2017 at 7:39 am - Reply

    Courage my friend. Mantids also have to go it alone and you are surrounded (virtually) by people who love you, root for you, cheer your successes and support you during your set-backs. I am proud to be one of those people, and I wish I could have tucked you in last night like I did Jessie. Hugs. Can’t wait to plan something FUN with you when you’re mobile again!!

  9. Stephanie Smith November 14, 2017 at 6:35 am - Reply

    If I ever knew someone was going to make it “through” their trial, it was you. Your strength of will, tenacity and pure grit is impressive. Your writing is beautiful and thought provoking. Through it all you keep positive. I am sure there are those moments that aren’t so positive, but you don’t seem to wallow long there. You are an inspiration.

Comments welcome! (thanks)

%d bloggers like this: